From Whence He Came…
Michael Krinzman has come a long way since his start as a local television news producer in Miami. His early days also included production work for a cable news network but it was his next pivot – to a video start-up he co-founded – that pushed him into the digital arena. After another video start-up involvement he found his way back to the Miami TV station where he started to become the Managing Editor of Digital Media.
A move to Phoenix followed, to take a position with Gannett as the Director of Digital Video for KPNX and The Arizona Republic. As the company was getting ready to split, Gannett offered him a job to oversee video strategy for the new company. Since then he has taken on the responsibilities of monetization and partnerships.
Krinzman was a panelist on last month’s keynote presentation at LMA’s Digital Revenue Summit. We caught up with him right after to dig into his video work with Gannett.
All Things Video
- Video is such a massive domain. Tell us about your approach to assessing and deciding what to focus on and where the biggest opportunities are?
- What is your current view on social video distribution, namely Facebook? How do you decide what content to share with third parties, and for what purpose?
- How much video content do you create organically vs. how much do you source through third parties? How do you make that decision?
- What do you think are the basic investments that media companies would need to make to have a real stake in video as a new revenue sourc…people, equipment, technology?
- What are some of the more effective video monetization strategies you’ve employed so far?
- USA TODAY NETWORK has invested heavily in AR/VR. Please share what you’re doing in this area, particularly with original content. Why do you believe that this is the right time to be pursuing AR/VR?
- In your role, you’re leading video for 100+ local properties and a huge national brand (USA Today). How similar or different are the video initiatives in the various markets? How do you make decisions about something being a “local play” or a “national/network play”?
- How do you address the ability to scale video efforts across large and small markets?
- Which model (if either) do you think will best serve the long-term strategy: Centralized video editing or editing at the local market level?
- What are the barriers to entry/challenges that you see for media companies in medium-to-small markets?
- How do you gauge success in the growth of video audiences?
- How do traditional news photographers fit into the video content production strategy?
- What has hindsight wisdom taught you so far about video strategies and revenue development? Any tips you can share for smaller media companies looking to further develop revenue around video? Pitfalls to avoid?
- Finally, growth is something on the minds of all media executives. Can you share a couple of thoughts on where you see future opportunities for growing audience and revenue with video?
It starts with the audience. Who are you trying to reach and what passion topics resonate with them. For a publisher like us, we also have to concentrate on our owned and operated platforms. That’s where we have the most control over our content and greatest opportunity to monetize.
We need to be there because that’s where the audience is, but I don’t think it makes sense to go all-in unless you can properly monetize it. The publishers that are most successful on third-party platforms are making videos specifically for that platform. That can be expensive and most often requires dedicated resources. That said, we’re getting ready to test Facebook’s mid-roll program, but I’m uncertain about its potential to generate revenue.
Video is expensive to produce and it doesn’t make financial sense to make it all ourselves. Part of our strategy is finding the right partners to fill in the gaps and compliment the videos we produce. We look for partners that are able to bring us access to things we otherwise may not have. For instance, we are working with partners focused on local video and sports highlights.
Whether it’s at the corporate or local level, I think the most basic investment companies need to make is hiring someone whose job it is to own video and is responsible for growing audience and revenue. Equipment and technology won’t matter if you don’t have the right people and strategy in place. I think where a lot of folks have gone wrong is putting someone from the newsroom with limited video background in charge of video, and it becomes just one of many things that person is responsible for, rather than their sole focus. You’re just setting yourself up to fail.
Syndication and distribution are probably the most effective. It’s in our best interest to generate as much revenue as we can from each video. So after we monetize the videos on our platforms, any money we make is incremental.
We’ve also been very effective in the way we structure our content and product deals. They’re mostly done through a revenue share, and because of our scale, we’re able to negotiate favorable terms and eliminate a lot of the risk.
USA TODAY NETWORK was one of the first media companies to experiment with VR in 2014 and the Des Moines Register won an Edward R Murrow award for their VR journalism story. Since then we’ve become a leader in the space and just recently launched the second season of our weekly VR show VRtually There. We’ve also produced several network wide specials, including Trump’s inauguration live in 360 degree video, and are continuing to experiment in the space.
VR/AR is still early in its adaption, expensive to produce and most of the video is being viewed in 360, not in VR headset, which could be off-putting to most. However, I can tell you why it’s working for us. It’s sending a message that we are not just a newspaper company, but rather digitally-focused. It’s getting us in front of advertisers that might not have thought about us as an innovative company and helping us close deals. It also doesn’t hurt when Forbes writes an article with the headline is “VRtually There Season 2 Makes USA Today Leading 360 VR News Producer.”
Overall our goals are aligned, but for the most part it’s up to the each market to decide what videos they produce. They know their audiences best. We have a Video Production Center in Atlanta that identifies trending videos from each property and shares them with the Network. The VPC is also tasked with producing and programming videos into the article pages. So when the Detroit Free Press decides to run a USA TODAY NETWORK story on their site, if we have a video, it will already be embedded in the article.
Skill-set and resources can be a challenge depending on the market size market. We don’t have the same expectations for our smaller properties as we do for the large, but we expect every site to produce video. Earlier this year we rolled out a video creation tool to help our local markets increase their video inventory. We also provide them with third party video so they can concentrate on creating local content for their top trending stories.
I think it’s a combination of both. A lot of videos, especially around breaking news, require a quick turnaround in order to capitalize while the story is trending. Most of those videos will need to be produced on the local level. Because there’s always a scarcity of resources, centralized video editing will also be essential to supplement what the newsrooms aren’t able to do themselves.
Scale, talent and resources. Video can be expensive to produce, so how are smaller markets going to be profitable when they don’t have the scale? Are they committed enough to video to go hire the people with the right skill-set? Since smaller markets are not going to be able to hire incremental heads, what are they going to stop doing in order to have enough resources to set themselves up for success?
Most of our views currently come through auto-play, so engagement is one of the key metrics we keep our eye on to see how much of the video our audience watched. Another metric that I find useful is video views as a percentage of article page views. It’s important that our producers aren’t just making lots of videos, they are doing them for the right stories that drive traffic.
They’re an integral part of the strategy and a main resource for content. Most are asked to shoot both photos and videos, and I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen a job description for a local photographer that didn’t include video as a major part of their responsibilities.
That the digital video landscape is constantly evolving and you need to build a nimble video organization to succeed. The smaller media companies, especially the ones where video is not in their DNA, should be careful about getting swept up in the “video gold rush” headlines. Not everyone is going to get rich, but if they do it right, they can be profitable. They need to understand that pre-roll alone is not going to support their video business.
I think there’s a big opportunity in original video and creating series and franchises around your audience’s passion topics. These videos are higher quality, more engaging and should grow your audience. They’re also ideal for sponsorships which will bring in the kind of revenue you need to grow your business. I also think you need to be experimenting. Whether it’s OTT, AR/VR, drones or on social platforms. It’s too expensive to do everything, but find out what works for you and resonates with your audience.